How to Grill Chicken Legs

It's time to give the legs some love! This recipe for grilled chicken legs is perfect for summer picnics.

Look through the hundreds of recipes for grilled chicken. You’ll find that only a fraction of them are for grilled chicken legs. What gives? It’s true that the breasts have the best protein to fat ratio, making them a popular choice for weight lifters. But, for me, grilling chicken legs is a no brainer; they’re juicier than the breasts and always turn out tender. What more could you ask for!

A chicken leg is made up of two components—the thigh and the drumstick. If you find them labeled as leg quarters at the grocery store, you’ll get the two pieces attached along with a bonus piece of the back (which you can save for making stock). You could also use the following recipe to grill all chicken thighs or all drumsticks; your choice.

How to Make Grilled Chicken Legs


  • 2-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons prepared mustard
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 10 pounds bone-in chicken thighs and chicken drumsticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt


Step 1: Marinate the legs

The best chicken recipes involve a killer marinade—that’s why ours has so many ingredients! In a large bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients, whisking until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Meanwhile, divide the chicken into two large resealable plastic bags. Pour half of the marinade into each bag and turn them over a few times after sealing to coat the chicken.

Place the bags in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (but, preferably overnight).

Step 2: Prep the grill

The next day, prepare the grill for indirect heat (learn how to do that on a charcoal grill, here). Drain the bags, discarding the marinade and placing the chicken on a large cutting board. Pat each piece dry with a paper towel and sprinkle them with the seasoned salt.

Step 2: Grill the chicken

When the grill is ready, moisten a towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack, holding onto the towel with long-handled tongs. Place the chicken skin-side down on the grill grates and cover the grill. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes on each side, until a thermometer probed into the meatiest part of the thigh reads 175° F.

Now you know how to grill chicken legs! Make one of these easy side salads to go alongside your chicken, or save yourself some clean-up and cook your side dish directly on the grill. Have guests who prefer white meat? Learn how to grill chicken breasts perfectly every time.

BBQ Side Dishes You Can Throw on the Grill
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Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay is a professional chef, recipe developer, writer and developmental editor. After years of working in restaurant kitchens, she turned to writing to share her skills and experience with home cooks and food enthusiasts. She's passionate about using local, organic ingredients and teaching others how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, writes for several publications and is the co-author of two books about Ayurveda.